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Still No Deal: Coburn, Reid Spar on Senate Floor

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) sparred over the food safety bill on the Senate floor, providing no progress and more political hurdles for a bill that has been plagued by setbacks.

Yesterday afternoon Coburn rejected Reid’s attempt to bring the bill up under unanimous consent, a procedural move to limit debate and set rules for amendments. Coburn took the floor and reiterated his objection to the pending bill, citing the measure’s $1.4 billion price tag, and the fact that it does not address systemic jurisdictional issues.

Coburn then offered his own deal, which would require the authorizing bill to provide specific offsets. (Important to note: The unanimous consent agreement Reid is proposing would allow Coburn to bring this amendment to the floor during the debate).    

“Congress’ response to years of its own failed oversight and fiscal

irresponsibility is to steal money from future generations and repeat

the same failed regulatory policies of the past.  More money and more

regulations solve nothing when Congress lacks the discipline to hold

agencies accountable,” Coburn said.

Coburn also proposed new terms for debate, which would nix Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s

(D-CA) ability to bring her controversial bisphenol-A amendment to the

floor, a measure allowed under the terms of Reid’s proposal.

After some wordplay and procedural confusion, Reid and Coburn left the floor no closer to a compromise.

According to Politico, top Republican and Democrat aides say the Senate will revisit the legislation today but neither side has hinted at giving way.

Deadlock and finger pointing
 
“There is no excuse to wait any longer,” said Reid yesterday. “Our current food safety system hasn’t been updated in almost a century.”
 
“Nothing could be more important than using our time here to keep our constituents safe,” he added.  “Nothing should be less controversial than keeping them out of harm’s way.  Let’s move to this common-sense bill and pass it.”

Coburn shot right back. “Senate Majority Leader Reid alone is responsible for not bringing this bill to the floor for a full and open debate.”

“Only the Majority Leader can explain how he found time to debate gays in the military, immigration and campaign finance – pet priorities of his political base – ahead of food safety,” he said.

“The schedule certainly suggests Congress is more interested in its political safety than food safety,” added Coburn. “If the Majority Leader believes this legislation is a matter of life and death he should agree to advance a version that is paid for.”

© Food Safety News
  • Thanks very much for FSN’s extensive coverage of the Senate’s procedural wrangling and the link to Politico’s take on it. Those, like me, who don’t have lobbyists to monitor the situation and keep us updated would be “out in the cold” without your work.
    As I understand it, “unanimous consent” is an agreement among 100% of the Senators as to how a matter will be handled when it is brought up on the floor of the Senate. This contrasts with “full and open debate” which is the normal rule and creates an opportunity for FULL debate of the issue and can require cloture votes to move things along. These cloture votes take a certain prescribed length of time.
    What is missing for this article and Politico’s are the actual provisions of Sen. Reid’s and Sen. Coburn’s unanimous consent proposals. Politico says that Reid’s included 5 amendments and Coburn’s only 3 and one of those excluded is Feinstein’s amendment on BPA.
    I would very much appreciate FSN’s obtaining this info and publishing it ASAP.
    I note that the Senate website’s chart of recorded votes (http://senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/vote_menu_111_2.htm) shows numerous cloture motions since the Senate reconvened; so, clearly, this issue is faced frequently. As S 510 will have long term and very far reaching effects on something as important our food, it doesn’t appear to me as unreasonable that the Senate should have a “full and open debate” on it. In fact, I would go a step further and declare that NOT having a “full and open debate” of S 510 would be a terrible mistake.
    The lack of an accurate public airing, discussion and debate of the concerns of the local, healthy food movement about this style of food safety legislation has been at the heart of why this has taken so long.
    Our side has repeatedly called and asked for this without the courtesy of an answer from the S 510’s supporters. Instead, the supporters have created a false sense of emergency so that the opposite has occurred. The de facto leader of the support for S 510 is the Make Our Food Safe Coalition (MOFS). Key players within that coalition, particularly the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Pew Charitable Trusts and Consumers Union have repeatedly, intentionally muddied the water by interjecting misleading and, even, false information. Their masquerading advocacy as science and push-polls as if they reflect informed opinion are worthy of the meanest political operatives not the high motives they claim.
    The myriad grassroots organizations that propelled the growth of the local, HEALTHY food movement are the true consumer advocates in this debate, NOT the professional, well funded NGO’s, because the ultimate goal of the grassroots organizations has always been increasing the supply of local, HEALTHY food for ALL Americans not just the affluent.
    The professional NGO’s making up MOFS need to start listening to those whom they claim to serve instead of enlisting the giants of corporate America to force through the managers’ package version of S 510.

  • Thanks very much for FSN’s extensive coverage of the Senate’s procedural wrangling and the link to Politico’s take on it. Those, like me, who don’t have lobbyists to monitor the situation and keep us updated would be “out in the cold” without your work.
    As I understand it, “unanimous consent” is an agreement among 100% of the Senators as to how a matter will be handled when it is brought up on the floor of the Senate. This contrasts with “full and open debate” which is the normal rule and creates an opportunity for FULL debate of the issue and can require cloture votes to move things along. These cloture votes take a certain prescribed length of time.
    What is missing for this article and Politico’s are the actual provisions of Sen. Reid’s and Sen. Coburn’s unanimous consent proposals. Politico says that Reid’s included 5 amendments and Coburn’s only 3 and one of those excluded is Feinstein’s amendment on BPA.
    I would very much appreciate FSN’s obtaining this info and publishing it ASAP.
    I note that the Senate website’s chart of recorded votes (http://senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/vote_menu_111_2.htm) shows numerous cloture motions since the Senate reconvened; so, clearly, this issue is faced frequently. As S 510 will have long term and very far reaching effects on something as important our food, it doesn’t appear to me as unreasonable that the Senate should have a “full and open debate” on it. In fact, I would go a step further and declare that NOT having a “full and open debate” of S 510 would be a terrible mistake.
    The lack of an accurate public airing, discussion and debate of the concerns of the local, healthy food movement about this style of food safety legislation has been at the heart of why this has taken so long.
    Our side has repeatedly called and asked for this without the courtesy of an answer from the S 510’s supporters. Instead, the supporters have created a false sense of emergency so that the opposite has occurred. The de facto leader of the support for S 510 is the Make Our Food Safe Coalition (MOFS). Key players within that coalition, particularly the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Pew Charitable Trusts and Consumers Union have repeatedly, intentionally muddied the water by interjecting misleading and, even, false information. Their masquerading advocacy as science and push-polls as if they reflect informed opinion are worthy of the meanest political operatives not the high motives they claim.
    The myriad grassroots organizations that propelled the growth of the local, HEALTHY food movement are the true consumer advocates in this debate, NOT the professional, well funded NGO’s, because the ultimate goal of the grassroots organizations has always been increasing the supply of local, HEALTHY food for ALL Americans not just the affluent.
    The professional NGO’s making up MOFS need to start listening to those whom they claim to serve instead of enlisting the giants of corporate America to force through the managers’ package version of S 510.

  • Michael Bulger